Rod Dickinson, director at Altus Financial, believes an integrated approach to wealth management is the way forward for the industry. In this chat, he discusses the growth of his business, the challenges he faced, and why there’s always one constant in financial advice.
How did you get your start in the business?
I started with an accounting firm, and then a separate wealth business based on the North Shore. The business had three owners, each of whom specialised in different disciplines, one of which was financial planning – predominantly around the risk side of things, with some very fledgling super and investment platform stuff back then.
Was it a challenge building out a fledgling wealth operation alongside accounting?
I enjoyed the process of building the business; I started in ’95 and bought into it in ’98. And between that and the introduction of the GST in 2000, all those things allowed us to mold this integrated model that is the cornerstone of our business now. Coming up with real-life simple answers to complex questions.
Has your approach to the business changed over time?
We’re a lot bigger now, so we have a lot more advisers to solve client issues. As the business and our client numbers grew, we were able to scale that integrated approach.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
We had started, three or four years before the GFC, on a program where we were looking to expand and in doing so, merged with another accounting practice in Newcastle to expand our footprint.
During the GFC, when we were looking at the next acquisition or merger proposition our financials had changed where the deal we’d originally made became unpalatable. We had to go back into our shell a little bit and make sure we had all our pillars right.
Have you faced any issues with the new FASEA regime?
Not necessarily. We have three principal client advisers and some associate advisers and all are degree-qualified. Most are relevant degrees; one might have to do three courses, but it hasn’t worried us to a great degree. In fact, we’ve embraced those changes. Its probably fair to say, though, that there was some disappointment that the CFP status did not get recognised as much as we thought.
Do you think the integrated approach to wealth management will become more commonplace?
We’ve always thought, going back 25 years ago, that the integrated approach was the future. In many ways we had a headstart on the rest of the industry. We closely and collaboratively got that integration piece happening naturally, rather than having to bring two different cultures together which might not think the same way.
Overall, how do you feel giving financial advice has changed over the years?
I think if you boil it down, although some clients’ needs have certainly changed, it comes down to asking the right questions and working out those short, medium and long-term goals. That’s not going to change.
Thanks very much for your time, Rod.
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